Is sex important in a romantic relationship? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this.
Everyone’s different, and what’s important for some may not be at all important for others.
It ultimately depends on your personal beliefs, physical desires, and the nature of your relationship.
Sex isn’t necessary, per se
Many people have happy, fulfilling, healthy romantic relationships without having sex with their partners (or only having sex with their partners once in a while).
There are many reasons why people don’t want to, or don’t, have sex. This may include:
having a low libido (also known as “sex drive”)
living with an underlying medical condition, such as chronic pain
wanting to date for a longer period of time before having sex
being unmarried and wanting to abstain from sex before marriage
However, this doesn’t mean that the relationship will be unhealthy. And it certainly isn’t a sign that your partner doesn’t love or value you!
The bottom line? Sexual activity isn’t necessary for a healthy relationship.
But it can be important for some
For other people, sex is an important part of romantic relationships. Many people want to have a sexual connection with their romantic partner.
Sexuality exists on a spectrum. Asexual people experience little-to-no sexual attraction (and usually don’t have sex, though each person is different), while allosexual people do experience sexual attraction.
Because there’s such a variety in our feelings about sex and our capacities for sexual attraction, we all have different approaches to sex — but no approach is wrong.
There are many reasons for this
There are many reasons why sex might be an important part of your relationship. For example:
It could be an opportunity to bond with your partner.
It could be an opportunity to show your partner love and affection.
You might feel more secure in your relationship if you’re having sex often.
It could simply be pleasurable and fun.
You could be trying to become pregnant.
And there are a number of benefits that come with regular sexual activity
Sex offers a lot of benefits outside of pleasure, and there are many reasons why having sex is good for your brain, body, and relationship.
Many people have emotional motivations for having sex. There are a variety of emotional benefits of sex, including:
It could improve your self-confidence.
It could help you connect with your own body in a pleasurable way.
It could help you bond with your partner, and it could be a way of expressing love and care for them.
It can relieve stress.
Sex can be good for your body and physical health, too. For example, some research suggests that sex can:
Boost immune function. A 2004 study showed that people who had sex more frequently had better immune systems.
Be a form of light exercise. A 2013 studyTrusted Source showed that we get a surprisingly good workout from having sex.
Improve heart health. A 2010 study found that having regular sex may reduce the risk of developing heart disease.
Boost cognitive function. A 2016 study found that sexually active people aged 50 to 90 years old had better memory.
Soothe headaches. A 2013 study showed that sex can relieve
migraines or cluster headaches.
This doesn’t mean that people who abstain from sex will definitely become physically ill or struggle emotionally — it just means that people who have sex may also see improvement in other areas.
These benefits shouldn’t be used to guilt people into having sex if they don’t want to do so.
Sex can create an intimacy feedback loop
A 2017 studyTrusted Source published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin showed that there’s a connection between frequent sexual activity and overall well-being.
It also shows that sex predicts affection and affection, in turn, predicts frequency of sexual activity. In other words, more sex leads to more sex.
So if you want to have sex, the best thing to do is to have more sex! It might sound silly, but it ultimately can improve your sex drive and overall sex life.
But sex isn’t the only way to have intimacy with your partner
We often equate sex with intimacy. But while sex can be a great form of intimacy, it’s certainly not the only way to be intimate with someone.
Affectionate touch, for example, can be a great way to be intimate. Some non-sexual forms of physical intimacy include:
Beyond physical intimacy, emotional intimacy — including honest, vulnerable conversations — can also be important to many people when it comes to relationships.
One thing’s for sure: Sexual compatibility is important
It can be difficult to deal with a situation where one person feels that sex is essential in a relationship while the other person doesn’t want to have sex.
Similarly, it can be difficult if one person has a high libido while the other person has a low libido.
However, it’s not impossible to manage. Communication can be extremely helpful.
Some people find that practicing ethical non-monogamy can be a way to have their sexual needs met without compromising their relationship with their non-sexual partner.
It’s normal to experience some changes over time
A number of things can cause your libido to change over time, according to Mayo Clinic.
Here are some potential reasons for a low libido:
Stress. Stressful events, and stressful lifestyles, might dampen your sex drive.
Relationship difficulties. Arguments, dishonesty, and a lack of trust could lead to a lower libido.
Age. Your libido might change as you age.
Hormonal changes. Menopause, pregnancy, and other events cause hormonal changes, which can in turn affect your libido.
Medication. Many medications list changes in libido as a side effect.
Certain medical conditions. Arthritis and coronary artery disease, for example, are linked to a low sex drive.
Trauma. Traumatic experiences cause psychological stress, which can lead to difficulties with libido.
If a low libido is bothering you, talk to a doctor or other healthcare provider.
Not wanting sex doesn’t mean something is wrong with you, and it’s not necessarily a problem to fix, unless it’s causing you distress.
Underlying clinical causes for a low libido can often be treated — or you may find that your libido returns to its previous state over time. There are also a number of natural ways to boost your libido.
But incompatibility may not work in the long term
Some people don’t mind waiting for a partner’s libido to return. Others don’t mind meeting their partner’s libido and sexual desires and having little to no sex.
Some may struggle with a lack of sex in the long term. It can be tough to manage this when sex is very important to you and not important to your partner.
So, if you and your partner seem sexually incompatible, it’s important to talk about it. It may be possible to remedy the situation so that you are both happy.
If you feel like you’ve gotten off track, try this
Communicating about intimacy is essential. It’s important to talk to your partner if your sexual desires are changing.
Here are some ways to start a conversation about it:
“Recently, my libido has changed, and I’d like to talk to you about that.”
“If you noticed I’ve been different in bed, I don’t want you to take it personally. Here’s what’s happening.”
“My libido has been low lately. Could we try XYZ in bed?”
“I’ve noticed you haven’t wanted to have sex lately. Can we talk about it?”
“We’re not having sex as often as we used to, and I’d like that to change. How do you feel about it?”
Finding this difficult? Consider reaching out to a couple’s counselor or sex therapist. They can help you communicate with your partner and find a solution together.
It might be that your sex life seems to have stagnated for no particular reason. Sometimes, a romantic weekend away, a new sex position, or new sex toys can reignite the spark.
The bottom line
Not everybody needs to have sex in order to have a healthy and happy relationship — but some people do.
What’s important is that you find a partner who understands your needs and desires, no matter what they are. Open communication is essential for every romantic and sexual relationship.
Don't make sex your work...